CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some members of the state Board of Education and the recently elected Lincoln County Board of Education are at odds over a recent local board decision to return Lincoln County High School to a traditional semester class schedule.
The school had recently been operating under a trimester schedule but the Lincoln BOE, made up of four new members who were elected in May, voted to return to two semesters per school year.
Lincoln Board President David Bell told the state BOE at its meeting Wednesday the change was made for a number of reasons including turnover of staff.
“We had, I think it was 17 teachers leave the school system from that high school. Primarily, we were told, for the crazy schedule that was going on,” Bell said.
The state Board of Education has had the Lincoln County system under an emergency review for the last couple years for a variety of issues. It’s not a full takeover of the system. The local board still has has some decision-making power like it did with the high school schedule.
State BOE President Paul Hardesty warned Bell that taking office and making significant changes right away may not be the best of ideas.
“It sounds to me like you all have arbitrarily changed the whole educational platform in Lincoln County and time will tell if you did it for the better or for the worse,” Hardesty said.
Bell said the trimester schedule was good for students taking AP classes but the hundreds of others who weren’t were left basically left unsupervised at the beginning of each school day for what is called a lab period.
“There may have been 200 that would go to a lab somewhere and with all of the teachers on planning period there was almost nobody there to supervise the other 4 or 5 or 600 kids in that commons area,” Bell said.
Lincoln County School Superintendent Jeff Kelley, a supporter of the trimester schedule, told the state BOE he believes they could have worked out some of the logistical problems with the schedule. He said early academic achievement numbers show test scores have been going up among students.
Kelley had the trimester schedule when he was principal at St. Albans High School.
State Department of Education Accountability Director Matt Hicks said switching back to a traditional semester schedule comes with a price that impacts employees and bus schedules. Hicks also said there would be fewer courses offered at Lincoln County High and larger class sizes.
“The class size average from the trimester went from 19 students in the trimester to 26 students in the semester. Class sizes that are at or over 30 students, with the trimester it was 7 classes and this semester it moved to 36 classes. There are 14 courses that can no longer be offered at Lincoln County High School,” Hicks said.
Hardesty, a former president on the Logan County BOE, told Bell he isn’t convinced the local board made the right decision.
“But you are in charge of your schools right now,” Hardesty said. “I’ve never seen a board with four new members come in and just upset the apple cart and turn it completely over and knock the wheels off it and try a different direction,” Hardesty said.
The state Board of Education voted in July to extend its emergency review of the Lincoln County system for six additional months. The state review has focused on a number of areas including finances, overtime, transportation, special education and personnel.